Migrant workers arrive with good marks

German Oswald Grübel and Amercan Brady Dougan of Credit Suisse: two of Switzerland's top managers Keystone

More and more highly qualified foreigners are moving to Switzerland to take up new positions, according to the Federal Statistics Office.

This content was published on February 20, 2007 - 13:49

Over the past decade, more than three quarters of migrant workers have arrived with an upper secondary school diploma or a university degree in their pocket, especially those from northern and western Europe.

At the end of June last year, 850,000 foreigners were working in Switzerland, an increase of 2.4 per cent over 2005. Two thirds of those over the age of 25 have at least a high school diploma, a figure that rises to 90 per cent for the Swiss themselves.

However, the statistics office noted that a foreign person's qualifications depended to a considerable extent on their origin.

Around 94 per cent of workers from northern and western Europe arrived with a higher education certificate of some kind, while this figure drops to 48 per cent for immigrants from southern Europe and the west of the Balkans.

For the Portuguese, only 28 per cent of those with a Swiss job have an education beyond compulsory schooling.

More than three quarters of workers who have moved to Switzerland in the past ten years have a certificate, but this figure falls to 55 per cent for longer-term foreign residents.

Highly qualified

Many immigrants hold down highly qualified positions. A third of those who moved in the past decade have managerial jobs, or are employed in an intellectual or scientific capacity.

For Germans, this figure rises above 50 per cent, while it is only a quarter for the Swiss, reflecting a trend for northern and western European immigrants.

Only 13 per cent of recent arrivals are considered to have no specific qualifications, down from 25 per cent ten years ago.

The number of foreign workers showed its strongest rise in five years between June 2005 and June 2006, with another 20,000 people taking up a position in Switzerland.

Apart from the 850,000 foreigners with Swiss residence papers, there are another 255,000 workers who live in border areas as well as asylum seekers.

Another 10,000 Germans moved to Switzerland (up 10.6 per cent) during the year ending in June 2006, while 7,000 more Portuguese (7.4 per cent) took up jobs.

The number of immigrant workers from Italy (-5,000) and the western part of the Balkans (-2,000) fell at the same, although they still constitute the largest groups of foreign employees, totalling nearly one fifth of the total.

Germans and Portuguese account for 12 per cent each. More than 60 per cent of foreign workers come from the European Union and the European Free Trade Agreement zone.


Key facts

Foreign workers in Switzerland :

Total: 850,000
Swiss workers: 3.2 million
Italians: 19%
Western Balkans: 18.7%
Germans: 12.1%
Portuguese: 12.1%
Spanish and Greeks: 6.2%
French: 5%
Austrians: 2.3%
Others: 24.2%

End of insertion

This article was automatically imported from our old content management system. If you see any display errors, please let us know:

Comments under this article have been turned off. You can find an overview of ongoing debates with our journalists here. Please join us!

If you want to start a conversation about a topic raised in this article or want to report factual errors, email us at

Share this story

Join the conversation!

With a SWI account, you have the opportunity to contribute on our website.

You can Login or register here.